Instead of delegating, architect Howard Wittausch prefers to work directly with his clients every step of the way, an approach that brings collaboration, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness to any project. He also draws from a spectrum of experience. After graduating from the UC Berkeley School of Architecture, he served with the Navy’s Civil Engineering Corps. He also worked with the County of Santa Barbara as a plan-check engineer. His portfolio includes free-spirited custom homes, historic renovations, affordable housing, skilled-nursing facilities, residential remodels, and additions to commercial mixed-use projects and industrial buildings.

“In an age of specialization, I think of myself as a generalist,” he says. “Versatility is my hallmark. And my greatest satisfaction lies in seeing the joy and excitement that comes from helping my clients realize their dreams.”

For one such dream, click here. And for more Wittausch’s career insight and work ethic, keep reading.


G&C: What drew you to architecture early on? 

Wittausch: Drawing ability and math. Also I’m a very visual person.


What has been a favorite architectural field trip?

Most recently, a stay at the historic McCloud Hotel, near Mount Shasta, restored to its 1910 condition.


What is your favorite public building in Santa Barbara? 

Santa Barbara County Courthouse.


Where do you find design inspiration outside of architecture? 



What do you most like about your job? 

No two days are the same.


What do you most dislike about your job? 

Unnecessary bureaucratic red tape.


If you had to pick another profession, what would it be? 

Painter. Writer. Musician.


What is your current state of mind? 

Peaceful, curious.


What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

To be busy, useful, connected to people.


What is your greatest fear? 

Loss of my faculties.


What is your greatest extravagance? 

To have time and spaciousness.


What do you consider the most over-rated virtue? 



If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? 

To be more athletic.


What do you consider your greatest achievement? 

My work.


What is your most treasured possession? 

My health and well-being.


Which living person do you most admire? 

My Unitarian minister.


Which living person do you most despise? 

I do not despise anyone.


What do you most value in your friends? 

Intellectual honesty, personal integrity.


Who is your favorite fictional character? 

Ahab from Moby Dick.


Who are your heroes in real life?

Everyday people who persevere against the odds.


On what occasion do you lie? 

To save face and to protect the feelings of others.


What is your most marked characteristic?

My physical presence.


What phrases do you most overuse?

“So it would seem” and “By all means.”


What is your motto?

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.


(By Keith Hamm, with photo by Jim Bartsch)


“Done Moving” in Montecito


Built in 2011, this 4,200-square-foot home (pictured, above) had plenty of attractive ingredients, such as steel-reinforced framing, vaulted ceilings, and a sensible floor plan. Outside, a wooded ambiance invited quiet privacy, all within walking distance of Montecito shops and restaurants. Purchased in 2012 by a retired couple—who prefer a bit of anonymity—the house would serve as a comfortable homebase between travels and a grand gathering spot when their grown children headed home for the holidays. They wanted it to be perfect. And for that, it would need a transformative remodel.  

On a recommendation, they called Giffin & Crane. We recommended architectural designer Jason Grant. Also on board was Wendy Weiner, the interior designer of their previous home. The design-build team was set.   

Described by the homeowners as a ghastly mishmash of design features, the home’s main living area—a wide and vaulted space linking the kitchen to a dining area to the living room and fireplace—originally showcased heavy stone pillars, archways clashing with archways, and bloated ceiling fans. All in all, there was far too much busy detail, which would distract from the homeowners’ desire to build a nice backdrop for all the furniture arriving from their previous home. Their old place was nearly twice as big, but the goal wasn’t to downsize so much as “right-size” their post-career lives into a final home with all their favorite pieces.   

Meeting every Thursday, the team decided not to rush the planning process. Better to get the concepts just right—and get them all down on paper, with cost and timeline accounted for—before launching the project. And after a year in planning and another year in process, their patience paid off.

Giffin & Crane builders—led by project manager Dana Anderson—calmed the busy living spaces by eliminating superfluous arches, lifting ceilings, and moving those bulky stone pillars outside where they belong. A linen closet off the kitchen became a bar. Boring cabinetry found an elegantly antique look with a bit of creative refinishing. And the three-car attached garage became a family room, office, and library, as crews built a new 800-square-foot garage on the other side of the driveway. Other highlights include a Napoleon direct-vent gas fireplace, custom light fixtures by Merv Newton, and all-new wood floors.

With the finishing touches in 2015—including a French courtyard out the back, with a burbling fountain and a hidden owl box—it’s the sort of home that makes its owners say, “We’re done moving.”



(By Keith Hamm, with courtesy photos.)


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